The jinn seems to exist in the popular mind at least as a separate species of spirit are referred to in the Qur’an as a jinni.
Created, reportedly, of fire, they make up a genus somewhere between angels and men. Like angels, they belong to the world of spirit. Like men, their habitation is within the human domain, and not in the heavens. They are intensely jealous of human men, women and children and seek constantly for opportunities to injure them. The fear of jinn, or the wish to subdue and use their services, are strong motivating forces in the practices of many ordinary Muslims.
Jinn form a strong part in the folk-Islamic concept of causality. Certain conditions of death, paralysis or illness my be attributable to a named jinn. Jinn of the unnamed variety are also attributed with causing much sickness.
In dealing with problems caused by jinn, diagnosis is often made by divination or medium trance. There is a need for a practitioner of some power and his services are expensive. Cures possible – not really.
Concepts of space are important in the folk-Islamic worldview. They define for the Muslim safe and dangerous territory. Dark rooms and the black of night are widely considered the haunts of jinn. On entering such areas, Muslims take precaution about the potential of other beings present. For example, in going to the bathroom, a person will cough, exclaim – ‘Bismillah!’ or ‘Ya satir!’ or some other protective formula, to warn the current occupant of his approach, or to claim God’s defence as he enters enemy territory. Failure to do so could well result in an attack from a spirit of the bathroom, a rih.
The careful respect of such physical spaces and the heightened connection made by many Muslims of our daily physical responses cause them to believe they are more vulnerable of being invaded by evil spirit beings during such activities.
The value of prophylactic talismans is partly determined by their claimed ability to control the supernatural inhabitants of various places. The Muslim who carries a talisman will want one that allows him to move around and act with immunity in as many situations as possible. If a Muslim is aware that jinn commonly inhabit certain spots of the earth around him, he carefully avoids stepping into such dangerous space even if he is well protected with charms.
For the ordinary Muslim, jinn are no mean force with which to reckon.